Tex rolled his motorcycle to a stop outside Noah’s front door, his guitar strapped to his back. His house was only a ten-minute ride away and seeing as Noah lived in an exclusive gated community just like he did, there wasn’t any need for security to accompany him. It was the perfect excuse to take his new motorcycle—a Triumph Rocket 3R—for a spin.
After unbuckling his helmet, which he hung from one of the handlebars, he swung his leg over the seat and strode up the steps, typing the entry code into the keypad by the side of the door. They all knew each other’s codes so they could let themselves in whenever they needed.
As he entered the foyer, Tex unstrapped his guitar and stripped off his motorcycle jacket, tossing it over the back of a nearby chair. He left his guitar propped against the wall and followed the sound of voices out to Noah’s back yard. As he opened the sliding door and stepped out onto the paved patio, he realized he was the last to arrive. Everyone else was already gathered around the grill or lazing on the sun loungers next to the palm tree-framed pool.
Tex scanned the yard for Eden, wanting to say hello, but didn’t see her. He wandered over to where Noah was manning the grill, and asked, “Hey man, where’s the guest of honor?”
Noah waved his tongs in the direction of the house. “She’s getting the salads from the kitchen; she’ll be back out in a minute. Although if you want to make yourself useful, you can go and help her bring them out. We may have gone a bit overboard and made four different types.”
Tex nodded at him and headed back to the house, sliding open the door that led to the kitchen and stepping in.
Eden was standing at the island counter, chopping some kind of garnish and sprinkling it on a massive bowl of potato salad.
“Hey there darlin’, long time no see.”
She looked up and her face broke into a bright, genuine smile when she saw him.
“Tex!” Wiping her hands on a nearby dishcloth, she moved toward him. Tex reached for her and pulled her into a hug, inhaling the subtle scent of cherry blossoms that rose from the mass of blonde hair she was wearing piled up in a messy bun.
Eden tipped her head back to smile at him, and he didn’t know how she could be so small, considering Noah was almost as tall as he was. She was actually probably close to average height for a woman, but in his arms she seemed tiny. Apart from the height difference between her and Noah, though, you could tell they were related. They both had a dimple in their left cheek, and bright, wide smiles, both blond and blue-eyed, although Eden’s coloring was slightly darker—her hair honey-blonde to Noah’s sandy blond, eyes cornflower blue to his sky blue.
It was good to see her again after so long; he was reluctant to let her go. When he did release her, he held on to her upper arms and studied her face. She was just as pretty as ever, but a hint of sadness shadowed her gaze—something he could guarantee that douchebag of an ex had put there. He didn’t like seeing that one little bit.
Tex let go of her arms and gripped her chin, tilting her face up to get a better look at her. “Are you okay, sweetheart?” he asked.
Eden nodded, but her eyes had widened in surprise, and he realized that while he’d hugged her hello and goodbye plenty of times, he’d never really touched her quite like that before. And he wasn’t sure why he was now; except he didn’t like knowing someone had hurt her—didn’t like knowing that it might happen again if she wasn’t careful with who she trusted.
Not wanting to reveal that Noah had told them what had happened with her ex, he let her go and changed the subject. “Need any help?”
“I just have to finish the potato salad, and then could you help me carry these out?” She gestured toward three other enormous bowls.
Eden went back to chopping whatever herb went on top of potato salad, answering Tex’s questions about what she’d been up to the last year and a half—managing to avoid any mention of her ex as she did so, he noticed.
Tex studied her as she spoke. Perhaps because he hadn’t seen her for a while, but with Noah’s concerns running through his mind, it was almost as if he was seeing her for the first time—as a woman, not just his friend’s little sister. He could see why Noah was worried about her being taken advantage of, particularly in a place like LA. She was as pretty as a picture. Prettier. All fresh-faced and innocent-looking, with those big blue eyes and soft, full lips, her slender curves evident even through her T-shirt and cut-offs. A lot of the men they associated with in the music business—hell, men in general—would take a single look and want to possess her. And if she was going to be at PR events with the band, he doubted it would take long for them to come panting after her. He tensed at the thought. She’d already had one piece of shit treat her badly. She didn’t need any more.